Even before the Utah Jazz won the first five games of this road trip, Thursday's contest against the Atlanta Hawks appeared to be the most dangerous of the six-game excursion.

Not because the Hawks are necessarily better than their other opponents, but because this is the last game of the trip, and in this situation, travel-weary NBA teams frequently lose. Eager to get home, they show up, punch the clock, take a beating, and depart."This will be a test of how focused we are," said Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa.

Adding to the danger of this visit is the fact the Jazz have won their past two games by toying with opponents of lesser ability, then coming on strong down the stretch. Sooner or later, that will catch up to you, and the Jazz know it. Guard Jeff Hornacek said that the team's approach has been a kind of "Russian roulette."

The Sixers noticed it, too. "The Jazz dodged a bullet," Philly coach John Lucas said after Utah overcame an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. "They played really awful; they were ripe to be beaten."

"We just kept plugging away," said the Jazz's Karl Malone. "We were amazing down the stretch, how we swarmed on defense. It was like a beehive, so to speak."

The Hawks, meanwhile, seem to have responded well to a juggling of the lineup by coach Lenny Wilkens. For a home game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, Wilkens assigned guard Steve Smith to come off the bench and put forward Ken Norman into the starting lineup, allowing Stacey Augmon to start at big guard. The Hawks, who had lost three in a row, posted an 18-point victory over the Bucks.

Of course, the Bucks aren't the Jazz, as Utah proved in its visit to Milwaukee a few days ago. But the Hawks aren't the Bucks, either, and the Hawks aren't the same team the Jazz pounded at the Delta Center in the second game of the season.

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"They're better since the trade," Chiesa said.

The "trade" brought Smith and Grant Long to the Hawks for Kevin Willis. Willis missed the game in Salt Lake City, as did Craig Ehlo, who is now back. So Atlanta has added Ehlo, Long and Smith to the team the Jazz downed the Hawks 104-86.

One guy Utah probably won't see much of is ex-Jazzman Tyrone Corbin. Corbin is ninth on the Hawks in average minutes played, and against the Bucks he played two minutes.

The Jazz staff was unsure as of Wednesday whether David Benoit (sprained ankle) would be ready to play. He was scheduled to test the ankle in a shootaround Thursday morning.

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